Publishing 101: Who Should Read Your Book Before Publishing?

When writers finish their book, a common question I see is, “What’s next? Who should review it before it gets published?” It’s a great thing to consider. Some writers edit their book a few times then publish it on amazon. If you’re a trained editor, that should be fine, but it’s always a good idea to bring in fresh eyes to review your work. When you’ve read and edited your book so many times, it’s easy to miss small things because you’re too familiar with it. For example, no matter how many times I read The Purple Door District, I still missed the fact that one of my character’s names was spelled incorrectly.

Actually, five of us missed it, ha!

Now, I want to make this very clear from the beginning. These readers are using their personal time to help you. It’s important for the author to show them respect (and for the readers to also show respect to the author). As an author, don’t pressure readers to get the work done. As a reader, understand that the author has put their heart onto paper, so when you provide critique, make sure it’s constructive.

So who should you talk to?

Beta Readers: Beta readers read your book through the earlier stages. They give their initial impressions of the book, point out plot holes, inconsistencies, or anything major that they feel needs to be changed. This is a great opportunity to make a list of things for the beta readers to look for if you’re concerned about particular scenes, characters, or plot points. This feedback can help you turn your writing into a much stronger book and fix things that might otherwise seem broken. Take what they say into consideration, and perhaps ask if they would be willing to read a second draft.

Also keep in mind that you, as the author, don’t have to make all of the edits. These are opinions, after all, and you ultimately have control over your book. This applies to all the feedback you’re given.

Sensitivity Readers: Sensitivity readers are a subset of beta readers who review works to check for cultural inaccuracies, bias, representation issues, stereotypes, problematic language, etc. I personally use sensitivity readers because I write about characters outside of my scope. Example, I’m a white bi-sexual woman, but I also write about black heterosexual men, as well as Native American, Hispanic, Latino/a, and Indian characters. I want to make sure I’m representing everyone correctly without showing any bias or including accidental racist undertones. Now, there’s an argument going around that books shouldn’t need sensitivity readers, and if it’s fiction, why should it matter? In my opinion, correctly portraying people and cultures is very important, and I want to make sure my readers can see themselves in the characters and aren’t offended by my work. We already have enough racism going on in our country today, our books don’t need to add to it. I know I can’t please everyone, but I can at least make an attempt to appeal to the masses and not be ignorant to the needs of those outside of my scope. For more information about sensitivity readers, check out the link above.

Editors: This goes without saying, but you should have an editor look over your book. Again, no matter how many times we read our work (even if we’re editors ourselves), we’re going to miss things. We’ve built the entire world in our head. We might know what we mean in a sentence or paragraph, but an editor can clean it up to make it clearer for readers to understand. You can hire different types of editors too, whether they’re copy editors, line editors, or they kind of do it all. Expect to pay for an editor. They put a lot of work into their craft and should be compensated for it.

Proofreaders: A proofreader is one of the last people to look at the book and will skim it for any final spelling or grammatical errors. While editors can do this as well, it helps to have another pair of fresh eyes on your book even after the editing stage. I had two proofreaders who caught things my editor and I missed. And the proofreaders even found errors that one of the other proofreaders missed. My proofreaders review my book just before I click print, that way any egregious errors should be caught.

Except Carlos…your misspelled name will live on in infamy.

ARC Readers: Arc, or advanced reader copy, readers are the ones who first get your printed book in their hands. They may be tasked with leaving reviews on Amazon or providing quotes you can use when marketing your book. They may also catch any final errors that you missed, or problematic plot devices. At this point, everything should be pretty clean, but it does sometimes happen that an arc reader will point out a name the author forgot to remove, or perhaps a red herring that shouldn’t be in the book at all.

In extreme cases, ARC readers, or early critics, might point out a major objection to a book like what happened in Amelie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir. The author pulled her novel from printing because of objections readers made about the depiction of slavery. Some critics denounced the novel, calling it “blatantly racist.” It’s possible having a sensitivity reader on the manuscript may have helped with this issue. In response, she said she intended to write the novel from her “immediate cultural perspective” and address indentured and human trafficking in industries across Asia instead. This situation started a twitter explosion on whether sensitivity readers are needed or not, and it still continues today. Be that as it may, it was the ARC readers who made the objections and caused Zhao to halt her book, which may have helped her save face in the end.

As a note, I think Zhao reacted with professional grace and respect. She took her reader’s objections in stride and sought to fix the issue rather than condemn the readers for their critiques.

These are just a few people who can review your book before it’s ready for publication. Make sure, too, that you’re giving your book to people who will provide honest feedback and won’t just say, “Omg, I love this. It’s amazing!” or “This is garbage. Throw it out.” Neither of these is helpful (though it is nice to receive the praise). And when you receive feedback, be gracious and understand that these people are just trying to help you. They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t trying to make you fail. They truly, and honestly, want to make your book the best it can possibly be. If you’re not able to handle critique, you may want to reconsider publishing so soon because, believe me, this world is filled with critics (both good and bad).

Another thing to keep in mind is hiring editors, sensitivity readers, etc., does not come cheap. Make sure you budget for it, or find other arrangements with the readers. Whether it’s swapping book edits for book edits, or giving free copies of your book to readers, make their time worth it. If you respect and appreciate them, they’ll respect and appreciate you.

What about you? Do you have particular readers you go to when you finish a book? What’s helped you the most? Let us know! Also, if you’re an editor, sensitivity reader, proofreader, beta reader, or ARC reader, feel free to post your services below!

 

Sleep and Creativity

I’m going to get a little personal this week, though I think it’ll focus on something a lot of writers can relate to; sleep and creativity. For the past year, I’ve had trouble sleeping at night. No matter when I go to bed, I always seem to wake up two or more times a night and stay awake anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Having that happen once or twice is one thing, but dealing with it every single night tends to wear a person down. When my doctor checked the stats on my CPAP machine, it registered I was getting maybe about 4-6 hours of sleep a night with all the waking up.

You can probably imagine what the lack of sleep has done to me:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Depression
  • Worse Anxiety
  • Memory issues

And so on and so forth. Not exactly fun things to deal with when you’re trying to write/publish a book.

I’ve worked with some people to get my sleep under control, but it wasn’t until I met a cognitive behavior specialist that I started to actually notice some changes. For the first two weeks I met with her, she asked me to track my sleep. I was shocked when I realized it looked like a checkerboard. I might get a couple hours of sleep before waking up, but for the most part, my night was “asleep, awake, asleep, awake, asleep.” Worse, when I would wake up in the middle of the night, I usually went to food for the comfort, which just doesn’t help with weight loss and staying healthy.

My sleep doctor describes it as maintenance insomnia. I can usually fall asleep within about 5 minutes. Heck, I’ve fallen asleep standing up before! But staying asleep, yeah, that doesn’t happen much for me. All the sleep I had started to get by using a CPAP machine just went out the window and left me a miserable mess. Frankly, I think the lack of sleep is what led to my emotional episodes in February of this year.

After tracking my sleep, my doctor told me that my circadian rhythm is off kilter. Her solution? Condensed sleep. Okay, so what does that mean? Basically, her idea was to focus on forcing me to get quality sleep over quantity. She wanted to retrain my brain to understand what it was to be “sleepy” and to be so tired that I would just sleep through the night. She had a few other stipulations as well:

  • No caffeine after 2pm
  • Sleep for 6 hours from 1:30am-7:30am
  • No naps
  • No resting in your bed
  • No phone in your bedroom before sleep

Our plan was to do it for two weeks before I saw her again, mostly because she said I would hate her by the second week. I thought she was kidding.

She wasn’t.

It’s officially been two weeks, and except for two nights when I accidentally fell asleep a little early on the couch, I’ve followed the rules closely. Each night I’ve gone to sleep and stayed in bed. Anxiety remained quiet. My hunger ebbed. All I wanted, all I craved was sleep! And by the second week, oh yeah, I hated her. I still might throw a shoe at her when I see her on Wednesday. I never thought fighting to stay awake until 1:30 am would be so hard. It has some benefits. I get more downtime for myself. I caught up on shows and finally watched Good Omens. 

But the costs more than outweigh the benefits. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m grumpy, depressed, stressed, and a complete bundle of emotions. And for those of you who know me well, I don’t like not having control of my emotions. I’ve actually started to cry because I was so tired and so angry that I couldn’t just nap. Even now as I type this, I can feel my eyes getting heavy and my body just begging me to go to sleep.

I will say this, the practice has really made me appreciate sleep a lot more. Our plan on Wednesday, I believe, is to add time onto my sleep schedule so I’m getting closer to 7 hours. I personally think I function best on about 7 1/2 – 8 hours, but even that hasn’t been enough when I’m trying to recover from many sleepless nights.

By now you’re probably asking, but Erin, what does this have to do with creativity?

Everything.

For some people, staying up late or lack of sleep can create a drive to write. For me, my muses have basically shut themselves off and my characters are giving me the cold shoulder. I have this extra time at night, but the idea of putting a single word on paper is almost unbearable. Thinking hurts. Trying to be creative is too exhausting. It takes all my energy just to stay awake. How I managed to edit and publish a book last year is beyond me.

Though it would probably explain the emotional roller coaster ride I felt during the process.

I want my creativity back. I want to be able to curl up at night when I’m sleepy and know that I can rest through the night and rise with enough energy to create my worlds. Sleep is so important. Like, I didn’t realize how important until I went through the past two weeks. And I know, 6 hours may not sound bad, but for me, I need more sleep. Technically, you can function on 5 hours of sleep a night for an extended period, but that doesn’t mean that your creativity will work. Take care of your mind and bodies. Give them the rest they both so desperately need and crave. I’m hoping once I add on the hours, my passion for writing will resume. and I’ll get out of the very tired writer’s block clouding my mind.

Valley West Mall Book Signing!

Wow, what an incredible weekend! I spent June 29th and 30th over at Valley West Mall in Des Moines, IA for a two-day book signing event presented by Indie Author Book Expo. Organized by Jenn Thompson, this event brought around 40 authors/creators together to sell books, make connections, and meet the good people of Des Moines. Despite an art festival, and the abysmal heat rolling through Iowa, the expo still brought 1,100 shoppers. Between author tables, live music, interviews, and a poetry reading, people definitely had a lot to see.

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This was my first time selling at a two-day event, and I was beyond nervous before I went. Author Alexandra Penn and I made the trip together, which sadly will be our last big show for sometime as she’s getting ready to move to school in Scotland. We made the most of it though, including hilarious road-trip conversations, dancing to the YMCA and other fun songs at the mall, and just sharing time being authors and friends rather than Directors. It was a nice reprieve.

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One of the best parts of the event was getting to catch up with both familiar and new faces. Brian K Morris and I haven’t seen one another since I.O.W.A. last year, and I can’t tell you how great it was to get a big hug from him. He’s been a mentor to me practically since we met, and I’ve embodied his ideology of “rising tide” when it comes to working with other authors. If we all work together, we rise together. Frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed in myself that we didn’t get a picture together!

He brought with him Teresa Dunn who is building her writing career even as we speak! I have to say, the expo is a great place to learn the ins and outs of selling books and to meet amazing authors who can offer tips about anything from how to get published to how to set up your signing table. Ashley Lovell and I spent plenty of time discussing ideas for table displays and brainstorming what would catch someone’s eye. I can’t wait to see what her table looks like when her next book comes out! Cassandra DenHartog (come see her at I.O.W.A 2019!) decided to add a little friend to my table who is now fondly named #Skelebird. He and #Yorick the skull will be making appearances and shenanigans at future signings, I’m sure.

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Other familiar faces included the incredible Kristine Plum, a fellow urban/paranormal fantasy writer (Alex and I weren’t the only ones bopping along to music).  Satish Jayaraj went around teaching authors how to create origami dragons, which are featured in his book. He’s actually hosting a book launch event on July 20th in Cedar Rapids, IA, so you should check him out and show your support! Tabetha Waite stopped by for a picture. She’s a great historical romance author I’ve featured in my website interviews.

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As always, I made a lot of great connections with the authors, but I also met some incredible readers. Most of the people who stopped by my table were very generous and interested in The Purple Door District. My favorite experience, though, was meeting two lovely young women who just couldn’t hold back their love for reading. They not only got the book, they proudly displayed PDD art and Bianca’s necklace. Seeing their excitement is what encourages me to keep writing, because I see myself in them when I was younger, eagerly searching for my next favorite book. I truly hope they enjoy it and they use it to fuel their own creativity.

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All-in-all, it was a great event, and I can’t thank Jenn Thompson enough for all the hard work she put into IABE. As someone who is currently trying to plan an author signing, I know just how much goes into preparing something like this. It’s no easy job, and it takes a very caring and hard-working soul to do what she does. Check out her blog to see more fun pictures from the event!

With that, this very tired writer will bid you ado. Keep your eye out for more pictures from future events, as well as what trouble Skelebird gets himself into.

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As a reminder, The Purple Door District is in the running for a reader’s choice award. I still need 50 nominations by 7/13 to move on to the next round, so if you have a moment, please submit your vote here.

Happy reading!

Marketing Tip: Street Team

This week’s marketing topic was inspired by Byrd Nash’s instagram post about street teams. Be sure to check out her many writing tips, as well as her new book:

Wicked Wolves
Find it on Amazon.

To start off, what is a Street Team? This is essentially a group of people who are your go-to folks for marketing your book. They’re the ones who share your posts on social media, leave book reviews, provide writing feedback, etc. They’re the backbone of your whole marketing plan who can help get the word out about your novel. I’ll go more in-depth in a moment, but one thing to keep in mind is that these people are usually volunteers who take time out of their day to help you promote. Treat them with kindness and respect and understand that sometimes they can’t always be “on” to help you. Some of my street team folks, like Brian K Morris, are there to provide me with moral support when I feel kicked down, and I can’t appreciate it enough. So be kind.

Why Have a Street Team? 

Whether you’re trade or indie, you’re going to have to do some marketing for your book. As an indie author, I wear the hats of the writer, editor, proofreader, designer, marketer, website creator, book signing scheduler, etc. It’s a lot of work. But, as I’ve expressed in many blogs, you don’t have to go it alone. The street team helps take some of the burden off of your shoulders. When you need to reach a wider audience, they’re there to spread the word. You can’t beat having a lovely group of people to help you.

Who Are They? / Where Can You Find Them? 

Honestly, your street team can be anyone. Family. Friends. Editors. Fans. They should be people you trust who have shown interest in your book and your journey.  They may even be fellow writers that you’ve met on twitter or instagram, or during writing conventions. Be sure to ask them before you add them to your street team, though. People don’t like being bombarded with information that they never asked to receive. One way you can keep track of who’s on your team is by creating a facebook group specifically for them. I have a group called The Purple Door District: Street Team! where I share my information. Generally, my street team is the first to see new content before it goes out to the rest of the public. Interested in becoming part of my street team? Let me know!

Arc/Beta Readers

One way the street team can help is by volunteering to either become a beta reader or an arc (advanced reader copy) reader. They’ll read your book and provide feedback about possible things you need to change to help make your story stronger. Specifically ask them to review topics/plots/characters you’re most concerned about because your beta/arc readers will be your last line of defense before you go public.

Reviews

Having people willing to leave reviews is so important for an author. Like it or not, the algorithms on Amazon will determine how your book gets promoted. The more reviews you have, the more likely Amazon will be to share it around. I believe the key number is 50 reviews, but frankly, any amount helps. Reviews don’t have to be complex, either. Your street team can leave a rating and something as simple as a one word review. Granted, getting a full review is wonderful, and I wouldn’t snuff that if they’re willing to do it. I’ve had some excellent reviews from Ellen Rozek, Byrd Nash, and Shakyra Dunn for example. The best ones are when the readers are willing to provide constructive feedback along with their kind words.

Social Media Sharing

Another way your street team can help you is by sharing important news about your book across their social media platforms. The more people you reach, the better chance you have of selling your book, or acquiring followers. They can share things like cover releases, book releases, giveaways, or, hey, even your quest for a reader’s choice award. Be sure to give them ample notice and all the information that they need to share your news around. While you may have some of the same friends, chances are all of your street team members will have an audience that you don’t know. The more platforms you can get across, (twitter, facebook, instagram, goodreads, allauthor, bookbub, etc) the better.

Book Buyers

Now, let me be clear, just because someone is on your street team, that doesn’t mean they’re obligated to buy your book. But, it is a nice perk if it happens. Likely your street team members are readers themselves and are interested in your book or want to go the extra mile and support you by buying your novel. Can’t say no to that, right? Be sure to interact with them and the rest of your book-buying audience. Let them know how much you appreciate them for helping you.

These are just a few ways that a street team can help you, especially near a book launch or book release day. Do you have a street team? How have they helped you? Feel free to share your story below!

On another note, I really am working to get nominated for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Award. If you have a second, please consider voting for The Purple Door District. Thank you so much!

 

My Mission as a Writer

As I was trying to think of a topic to write for this blog post, I came across an interesting list of questions on 40 Blog Post Ideas for Novelists, Poets, And Creative Writers. “What is your mission as a writer? What do you hope readers will take away from your work when they read it?”

We all have different reasons for writing, but our mission? Now that really makes you think. So, in no particular order, here are the reasons I write.

Mission 1: To Entertain/Escape

I love books. They make me laugh, cry, stay up way too late at night to find out what happens in the next chapter, and rage. They let me escape from life and get lost into another world where bills, mortgage, work, and adult responsibilities don’t plague me. I want to create a world where people can immerse themselves and feel that same sort of escapism, especially if it’s from trauma.

I grew up feeling pretty lonely. I had parents who worked, and I wasn’t the most social kid, so I had a lot of time to be alone and think. Books became my way to deal with the loneliness. I could always rely on a new Jedi Apprentice to appear at Borders (when that was still in existence) each month. The characters in my fantasy and sci-fi worlds started to become my friends. And when something happened that made me upset or hurt me, I could dry my tears with the pages. I want my books to be that for other people so they have something that can comfort them, or entertain them, whatever they need.

Mission 2: To Inspire

I have a dream that one day a reader will come up to me and say, “You inspired me to write my own story.” I’m not trying to be egotistical. I want readers to feel like they, too, can put their stories down on paper. I firmly believe that anyone can be a writer. Whether you roleplay, write fanfiction, poetry, short stories, novellas, novels, scripts, journals, blogs, random musings, etc…you’re a writer. And if you have a story to tell, you should do that. I want readers to feel like they can come up to me to ask for advice and encouragement. I have plenty to give, because I want others to succeed as well. And I know that if one of my favorite authors told me, “I believe in you,” it would have spurred me on to write even more. So, I want to be that for someone else.

Mission 3: To Be Inclusive 

Whether it’s The Purple Door District, or one of my other novels, I want my writing to be inclusive. I acknowledge the privilege that comes with being white. But I also know the struggles that come with being bisexual, morbidly obese, and a woman. I definitely do not know everyone’s struggles, and I can’t be the voice for other people who are discriminated or suppressed, but I can at least provide a space where many can feel included. I work with sensitivity readers so that when I write about folks outside of my scope, I don’t come off as a racist jerk due to pure ignorance. I know I may not always get it right, but I do try to do my research, and I do my best to improve when I receive critique.

If I’d read more books with bisexual characters, I might have recognized my sexual identity sooner. If I’d had books with strong females instead of the damsels in distress, I might have realized earlier I can be the hero of my own story. So many books focus on white cis characters (generally male heroes), so how can people feel like they’re included? I can’t touch on everyone, but my mission is to include as many people as possible because that’s our world! We’re not just one gender or color. We’re a plethora of incredible cultures, colors, and abilities. Everyone should be celebrated, not treated like they’re “the other.” So if you feel like you’re missing from my book, tell me. I’ll see what I can do.

Mission 4: To Write For Me 

Just like other writers, I have my own stories I want to create. I see worlds and characters, and hear music in my head. I have far too many plot lines to work with, and I want to put them all down on paper…someday. Maybe when I become a full-time author I’ll be able to indulge my muses.

Writing has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. One of my fondest memories is scribbling down a dragon story on notebook paper and watching my world, and characters come to life. I roleplayed on websites, and learned to develop my characters. I created fanfiction to show my love for Redwall, Harry Potter, and, yes, even My Little Pony, because it made me happy. When I hit a writer’s block, I tend to crumble because I feel like I lose a part of myself. I can’t do the thing I absolutely love because I’m stuck. Some people don’t get it, and that’s fine. My writing doesn’t define me, but it does make me really happy. It’s what I want to do, and I hope that one day it can become a full-time job.

Heh, I think all writers have that dream.

I guess, in a nutshell, my mission is to write for myself, inspire others, provide an escape, and be inclusive. Who knows, maybe as I become a more experienced writer, I’ll realize I have even more missions.

What about you? What’s your mission as a writer? Feel free to share below!

Musical Musings

There’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with your novel and a good song to set the mood. While not everyone likes to write with music, there are plenty of us who need that additional inspiration to guide us through our craft. I’m one of those people who can listen to the same song on repeat for hours on end because it elicits a certain emotion that keeps me going.

Music has always been important in my life. When I was a kid, I remember listening to the Little Mermaid soundtrack. I could tell my mom what was happening based on the music. And I’m not talking about the songs with lyrics. I mean the instrumental pieces. I played the clarinet in middle school. My dad introduced me to the world of opera and operetta (still love it that Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the first operetta I attended). I also loved musicals like Cats, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, Rent, etc. I learned how music can tell a story, not just in the lyrics, but with the instruments alone.

As I got older, I started creating my own stories to the music. I’d pick a song like Vivaldi’s “Winter” and I’d sit back, close my eyes, and try to imagine a story that was happening through the music. Characters sprang to life. Icy forests caught in a snowy storm. Snow fairies darting through tree branches and bushes. It wasn’t just music to me; it became an entire world.

So I started collecting songs that did several things for my writing; created the world, represented my characters, and quieted my mind. I made playlists that were 40 songs long because they all reminded me of my characters or world in some way. Right now, Naomi Scott’s “Speechless” from the new Aladdin movie is my song of choice. The lyrics remind me of one of my characters who survived an abusive relationship and came out stronger than ever. Some of the lyrics like “I will take these broken wings / and watch me burn across the sky” make me think of my character who literally has a phoenix living inside of her.

So what can you do to help you get into the creative mood using music?

Character Playlists: Find music that reminds you of characters. I pick out lyrical songs for most of these because the words invoke feelings about the characters and what they’ve gone through in their lives. I used to create separate playlists per book, but sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I just put them all on shuffle and see which character speaks to me the most.

World-building Playlists: I mostly choose instrumental music for these, but having lyrical songs that represent your story’s time frame or world can be just as useful. James Horner’s “Avatar” and Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” soundtracks are definitely ones I use for my fantasy/medieval stories. On the flip side, I might use pop music or gothic rock (thank you Within Temptation and Evanescence) for my urban fantasy world because it just fits the setting and the characters. Play around. See what catches your attention.

Mood Playlist:  I also create playlists that have nothing to do with my characters or worlds. These are generally songs that I know won’t distract me from writing and will actually sooth me if I’m stressed out. Some easy choices are meditation soundtracks with water, music, and soothing chimes or bells. Another day, I might replay the “Night King” from the Game of Thrones’ season 8 soundtrack 15 times. Right now, I’m listening to “Lord of the Rings Music & Ambiance.” Most of my mood music is a mix between gentle or sad. It’s rare, but sometimes I’ll have louder, head banging music. Again, it depends on the mood. But this might help you get into the groove of writing. Turn on your playlist, settle into a comfortable spot, and get writing!

There are also fun programs out there where you can create your own ambiance.  Check out Ambient Mixer. Maybe you want to spend an afternoon in the Gryffindor common room or explore Rivendell. Perhaps Loki’s quarters are much more to your liking. You can listen to premade background music or make your own.

Everyone has their own tastes in music and their own ways to get into the writing mood. What do you do? Do you have favorite songs that inspire you? How do you find them? Feel free to post below.

Happy writing and listening!

 

Colors and Symbolism in Writing

Color and imagery play such important roles in all forms of media. They can enhance how we might view a character or act as a device for foreshadowing. Some colors can blatantly symbolize who’s good and who is evil, or denote where the character’s loyalty resides. While it’s easier to see on tv and in film, it’s just as important in books.

First, what do the colors mean? Taking a look at Judy Scott-Kemmis’ website Empowered by Color, she outlines the different emotions created by color.

  • Red: Generally this is the color associated with passion, sex, energy, and ambition. But it’s also the color of anger (which is generally why people might have heightened emotions when sitting in a red room).
  • Orange: Social communication and optimism. It can also be a more negative sign of pessimism.
  • Yellow: Color of the mind and intellect but it can also suggest impatience and cowardice. (Maybe this is why the mind stone in Avengers is yellow).
  • Green: This is the color of balance and growth. Though it can also be a sign of jealousy/envy.
  • Blue: Tranquility, trust, and peace. Some rooms are painted this color to help people feel calm.
  • Purple: Imagination (both creative or impractical)
  • Pink: Unconditional love as well as immature and girlish
  • Brown: Down-to-earth, protection, and comfort
  • White: Purity, innocence, completion
  • Gray: Compromise
  • Black: Mystery, secrecy

Keep in mind, this is one person’s view of color, but it seems pretty universal in other studies (though with some minor differences).

How do these colors come to play in stories?

Good vs Evil

Let’s start with Star Wars. Generally the Jedi Knights wear white/beige clothing while the Sith are dressed all in black. As a character slips to the dark side, their clothing color seems to change (ie Anakin Skywalker). Of course, it can be argued that Luke was wearing black at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, so was that meant to throw us off or hint that perhaps Luke could still slip to the dark side?

Their lightsabers, as well, seem to play a part in good vs evil. Jedi wield green (growth) and blue (peace) lightsabers while the Sith use red (anger).

When we’re told stories, it’s not uncommon for the good character to wear white clothing to represent purity while the villain is cloaked in black/darkness. Obviously this has led to discussions about how this just reinforces racism (white = good, black = bad). So some writers have tried to move away from this trope. Or, so-called bad characters are starting to have redeeming stories told about them (ie. the film Maleficent).

Color and World Building

Color also plays a big part in world building, as some societies are built directly around color. Let’s address Avatar: The Last Airbender. Each of the nations (earth, fire, water, air) have different colors to denote their different kingdoms. Earth Kingdom wears brown, yellow, and green. Water Tribe wears blue, purple, and white. Air Nomads wear orange and yellow. The Fire Nation wears primarily red, brown, and black. They each have their own distinct color, and it works well with what we’ve learned about what the colors mean. Green/growth and brown/down-to-earth seems very fitting for the Earth Kingdom. Blue/peace, purple/imagination, and white/purity works well for the Water Tribe, while red/anger and black/mystery embodies the Fire Nation.

The world of Harry Potter does this with the houses as well. Gryffindor is red and gold. Ravenclaw is blue and bronze. Slytherin is green and silver. And Hufflepuff is yellow and black.

Star Trek also plays around with colors. Now, each ship or generation kind of varies their uniforms, but in general blue = sciences, yellow = command, red = you have a death wish. But in all seriousness, if you look at articles about Star Trek like “The Take” you’ll find that every person wore a specific uniform designated to their station. Unfortunately, the red shirts just often went down to the planet and never came back.

Foreshadowing 

Colors can also be used to foreshadow events, or show a character’s progression or regression mentally. The big example I’m going to use is from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. You can skip ahead if you haven’t seen the season yet and don’t want spoilers.

***Begin GOT Spoiler****

In the case of Daenerys Targaryen, her color scheme changes drastically along with her mentality. In Episode 1, she wears pure white clothing. She is in the north, with her lover, ready to fight a battle to save the people. She still has her best friend, her mentor, and her two dragons. Her intentions are pure. Between episodes 2-4, her white clothing takes on red lines. They just fought a battle and she watched someone she cared for deeply die before her eyes. Not only that, she starts to realize she doesn’t have the support of the people like Jon Snow. Then she loses her best friend and another one of her dragons. Episodes 5 and 6, her clothing shifts to red and black during the burning of King’s Landing and her ascension to the throne. In previous seasons, she had mostly worn white, blue, and browns (purity, peace, down-to-earth), and in the end, she goes mad while wearing red (anger) and black (mystery). It was a beautiful, though tragic event, of what was to come.

***End GOT Spoiler***

Another element of foreshadowing comes, again, from Star Wars. When Anakin first starts his training, he’s in the traditional white or brown Jedi garb. But as the story progresses, and he starts to slip towards the dark side, his clothing changes to black. The last time we see him whole, he’s fighting in black attire against Obi-Wan in white. After that, he’s left in his Darth Vader suit just so he can survive. We watched through color as he slipped away from the light to darkness.

These are just a few reasons why you might consider using colors in your story. For lack of better words, you paint a broader and more beautiful picture of your world when you add in these elements. From color meanings, to symbolism and foreshadowing, there’s so much you can play with.

 

How to Ruin Character Arcs A La Game of Thrones

Note: This post is dark and full of spoilers from S8E5.

Sunday treated us to the fifth episode of season 8 of Game of Thrones, and it left watchers and readers raging. Between Dany activating “Mad King” mode and burning King’s Landing to the ground, Jamie going back to Cersei, and Cersei getting the fastest, easiest death of most characters of the show, it left people wanting. And lighting pitchforks.

Now, let it be clear, it’s not that the episode didn’t go the way I wanted that has me upset, it’s the destruction of the character arcs that has my blood boiling as much as Dany…or any of her victims for that matter. This episode–frankly the last two–have shown a gross break away from the character arcs that we’ve grown to love over the past 8 seasons. In one episode, these fleshed out characters get a 180 makeover leaving us all feeling a bit whip lashed.

So let’s go through and talk about just how our beloved characters were ruined.

Daenerys Targaryen

Yes, ladies and gents, we’re going to pounce on the Mother of Dragon(s) herself first. To begin, I’d like to say that I’ve read an incredible article about how Dany’s fall into madness makes sense, and I suggest you take a look at it. Check out “Game of Thrones”: Don’t be shocked by Daenerys– her King’s Landing turn was very much earned written by Amanda Marcotte.

In summary, in the article, Marcotte explains how Dany’s descent shouldn’t be a surprise to us as George R.R. Martin, and the show writers, have hinted at her fits of rage more than once in the series. From killing the “masters” to free the slaves to frying Sam’s father and brother, Dany has shown she doesn’t handle people disagreeing with her ideology very well.

But, here’s the caveat. Dany started out the series basically as a brood mare for her brother to help him gain power. She was married off to Khal Drogo where she was subsequently raped and taken advantage of until she learned how to bend him to her will instead. She started from the ground up, learning how to find a foot hole in a situation that would otherwise see her as a captive.

Throughout the series, Dany’s main focus has been going to Westeros and claiming the Iron Throne which is her birthright–up until we learn that Jon Snow is a Targaryen of course. She works on building her army through taking command of the Dothraki, freeing the Unsullied by killing the masters, raising her three dragons, and swaying people to her side, all the while fighting to convince everyone that she’s not like her deranged father. Robert Baratheon sends assassins after her when she’s just a girl because of the threat she poses (what if she truly is like the mad king)? And yet she survives it.

Varys makes a point to say that when a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin to see on which side it lands. Dany could have become a powerful queen or an evil dictator, and unfortunately, the latter came into play. And it’s maddening. It makes sense that with the loss of Jorah, two of her children, and her best friend, Missandei, that she would go into a spiral of rage, but that doesn’t mean she had to go all Mad King. While she–along with many characters– has demonstrated violence towards those against her, she’s also shown mercy, love, and caring.

The thing that angers me the most is that the writers set it up that the fact that Jon doesn’t want to boink her is what sends her over the edge. Can we please stop the themes of women going crazy because they’re scorned by a guy?

When the Lannisters surrendered at King’s Landing, that should have been it. I would have understood her wanting to go after the Lannister army, and Cersei of course, but to destroy the entirety of King’s Landing along with all the innocent people within? It seems contrary to her character. She’s fought all this time not to be her father. She has one dragon, one child, left, and she puts him completely at risk to take King’s Landing and destroy all of the people. It doesn’t do her character justice. She basically destroys the very thing she’s come to claim. If the city is burnt to the ground, who’s going to serve her? Never once in the series (that I can recall) has she intentionally caused the deaths of children or mothers. And yet here, she destroys every single one of them, and without any remorse.

This isn’t the Dany that we were presented with.

Jamie Lannister

Where to begin? We all hated Jamie at the beginning when we were introduced to him banging his sister followed by him shoving a kid out the window to protect their secret. Great moral compass there, Jamie.

But, as the seasons progress, we get to see him and Brienne together and learn that he killed the Mad King to save King’s Landing. He didn’t want to see people burn to death, so he stuck a sword in the man and became the loved and hated King Slayer. Through their relationship, we see a softer side of Jamie. He loses his hand protecting her. He swears to fight by her side during the battle against the Night King. He abandons Cersei (granted, she gave him a death threat) because he doesn’t believe in what she’s doing and how she’s hurting the people. He meets Bran again and tells him that he’s not the same man he once was. And then Jamie shows even more growth by being with Brienne and bedding her, treating her like a woman rather than some object. He even says he’ll stay with her while the battle at King’s Landing happens.

And then…he finds out Dany is going to kill Cersei, and he does a 180 and runs back  to Cersei.

Wait, what?

Didn’t he just get a death threat from Bron that he’s been hired by Cersei to kill Jamie and Tyrion?

Oh, but no, your sister and bed buddy is in danger, so let’s forget the woman that you fell in love with, and new moral compass, and race your butt right back to King’s Landing. Right before Dany massacres everyone.

Nice.

The debauchery of Jamie’s character continues when he sees the devastation that’s happening at King’s Landing and he does nothing to stop it. Jamie, the King Slayer, the man who murdered the Mad King to save the people, just shoves his way through the crowd to get to Cersei. He fights, and almost dies by, Euron to get to her. And in his final moments, he holds her, comforts her, and confesses his love for her as they’re crushed by rocks.

BY ROCKS.

So much for not being the “same man.”

This is not how you end a character’s arc. He literally had everything going for him at Winterfell, and even after Bron threatened him, he had no intentions of going back. But the moment he hears Cersei is in danger, he throws all his morals aside and rushes to her. Hell, he’s demonstrated more loyalty to Tyrion by helping his brother escape the cells than he has to Cersei, and he still chooses to be with her rather than to fight at his brother’s side.

Bad call, writers. Bad call.

Tyrion Lannister

I was rooting for you, sir, I really was.

First off, what happened to the “I drink and know things” Tyrion that we were treated to in the first few seasons of the show? A man of witty words, fascinating quips, and enough intelligence to lead an army into war at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. He became Hand to Dany and seemed to remain the same Tyrion for awhile.

And then season 8 happened.

Suddenly, Tyrion has turned into a bumbling fool who can’t anticipate what’s going to happen in battle. He’s constantly apologizing for his mistakes to Dany, underestimating his sister and her supposed good will, letting his brother go and run back to Cersei (thus betraying Dany), and selling out Varys which he’s never once done before.

Varys has been one of his closest companions and a fellow adviser through this all, and yet when Varys demonstrates his hopes of Jon being the one on the throne, Tyrion rushes to Dany to let her know and Varys pays the price. Granted, it’s treason. It makes sense. But since when has Tyrion had an issue with treason (ie. killing his father on the toilet, freeing his brother, turning against the Lannisters, etc).

No, we’re left with a man half the character he once was (no pun intended), and with little intrigue and all hot air. Tyrion’s character hasn’t been done justice whatsoever, and while I do appreciate that he did try to save the people of King’s Landing, if he’s so smart, he probably should have realized his queen wasn’t going to listen to him and go bat-shit crazy, destroying everything he knows and loves.

Tyrion, my friend, you know nothing.

Jon Snow

First off, pet the damn dire wolf, Jon Snow.

There, I said it.

Okay, I think we can all agree that Jon is very much Mr. Broodypants who doesn’t have the best battle tactics, and craves to be the hero. Even if he doesn’t want the Iron Throne.

We’ve spent all of Game of Thrones getting to learn the honorable Jon Snow. Friend to Wildlings. Killer of white walkers. The mighty warrior of the Battle of the Bastards.

The knower of nothing!

Okay, scratch that last part, at least until season 8.

I’ve cheered for Jon up until this point. He’s demonstrated leadership in his fight against Ramsey, and his quest to capture a white walker to convince Cersei to follow them into war (even though he was probably a fool to believe she’d actually do it). And despite his poor battle tactics in the fight against the Night King, he’s at least stayed true to his character. He wants to defend his people and the North. He wants to protect all of Westeros from these demons.

And then he finds out his lineage, and suddenly Jon is just incapable of reason. He blindly follows Dany to fight at King’s Landing, pushing men who are already exhausted from the fight against the Night King. He doesn’t necessarily agree with her tactics, but she’s “his queen” and he’ll do what she says. In the fight against King’s Landing, he at least gets back some of his honor and tries to stop his people from killing the civilians, but it’s like he’s lost any sort of power or sway that he actually has over the situation. No one is listening to him (unless they’re running from the fire-breathing dragon). And despite warnings, he just blindly follows along. Like a sheep led to slaughter.

I don’t want his character to end this way, not as a puppet to Dany or to his own ignorance.

Maybe he should have stayed with Ghost and Tormund in the North.

This is what you get for not saying goodbye to your dire wolf, Jon.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Author Interviews

Whether you’re a blogger interviewing an author, or an author responding to a blogger’s questions, it’s very important that you both provide quality and professional work when it comes to interviews. I’ve been interviewing authors for over a year now, (and been interviewed as well) and I’ve noticed a few things that both help and harm the interaction. So I’m going to divide this up between Do’s and Don’ts for both authors and bloggers.

Authors

  • Do
    • Provide all material requested from the blogger the first time around.
    • Edit your responses (spellcheck/use proper grammar and capitalization) so the blogger doesn’t have to fix it.
    • Provide high-resolution pictures for yourself and your book covers.
    • Get your material to the blogger on time.
    • Answer all the questions (unless otherwise agreed upon) and provide interesting information. One-word responses won’t engage the reader or the interviewer.
    • Post the interview around to your social media platforms and give the blogger credit.
  • Don’t
    • Badger the blogger about when your interview is coming out or keep requesting changes (unless you have a book coming out and need to provide a sale link).
    • Act rudely towards the blogger. They’re doing you a favor by creating the interview for you.
    • Answer questions dishonestly
    • Cut down other writers or bloggers in your answers.
    • Ghost the blogger.

Bloggers/Interviewers

  • Do
    • Get questions to the authors when promised.
    • Provide a designated day that you’ll post the interview and stick to it.
    • Provide the author with a link to the posted interview so they can share it around.
    • Review the answers before you post it on your site in case of errors or controversial responses (depending on your site’s dynamics).
    • Answer any questions the author might have about the interview or provide clarification.
    • Be honest to the author about what they can expect (are you posting the entire interview or just portions of it?)
  • Don’t
    • Act rudely towards the author. You two are trying to work together to help one another.
    • Post the interview late or not at all.
    • Ignore the author’s concerns if something is posted incorrectly in the interview.
    • Ghost the author.
    • Promise a posting date until after the author has provided their material. (I’ve missed posting interviews because authors didn’t give me their information in time).

These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while interviewing and getting interviewed. Bloggers and authors should remember that they’re working as a team. Together, they can provide exposure to each other. I’ve read far too often how authors have lashed out at book reviewers, bloggers, or interviewers for petty reasons. Bloggers can’t post interviews without authors, but authors can’t gain exposure without the help of bloggers. Work together harmoniously and you will both succeed.

If you both find that you’re on completely different pages, then it’s also okay to politely agree to go your separate ways. What it comes down to is respect. We’re all professionals here, and it’s important to treat each other like people and not invisible faces.

 

The Calm Before the Storm (A Game of Thrones Discussion)

Game of Thrones season 8 demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together.

Note: Be warned, for this post is long and full of minor spoilers.

Readers and watchers have waited in anticipation, counting down the days when Game of Thrones would return to the screen. Theories and speculations bombard Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media outlets, some reasonable, others extremely far fetched but still fun. It’s hard not to see some advertisement or merchandise about GOT when you get online.

Finally, on April 14th, we returned to the iced-over world of Westeros.

And responses to the show were lackluster.

In fact, many people have complained that the first two episodes were merely full of dialogue and nothing actually happened. There was no fighting, no epic dragon battles, nothing that entirely felt like GOT except for the random sex scenes and witty banter. With the trailers promising epic fights, it’s not surprising that people would feel a little disappointed that they didn’t get that action immediately.

However, I think people fail to see what GOT did do for us.

The show demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together. For anyone who has seen the show or read the books, we know that George R. R. Martin is pretty merciless. No one is safe, so this may be the last time we get to see our beloved characters that we’ve followed over the years.

Episode 1 does a wonderful job of bringing characters together again who haven’t seen each other since the first season. All the still-living Starks are finally back at Winterfell. Arya and Jon reconnect for the first time since the tender moment in season one when he gave her Needle. Jon gets to see Sansa and Bran. It’s heartwarming and something many people have wanted to happen. At the same time, we get a lot of call backs to season one:

  • Arya leaping in Jon’s arms to hug him
  • The Starks greeting a ruler (Robert/Dany) at the front gate
  • Jamie and Bran sharing a moment at the end of the episode, an echo of when Jamie shoved Bran out the window
  • A boy climbing the walls/tree of Winterfell to see the approaching royalty

It’s a nice reminder of something we haven’t seen for so long.

Episode two goes deeper into character development, giving them a chance to share one last moment together before the coming battle. For the first time, enemies-turned-allies  break bread together. Think of the scene around the hearth with Tyrion and Jamie (Lanisters), Tormund (Wildling), Brienne of Tarth (once a knight for the Baratheons then a protector of the Starks), etc. This is a profound moment, especially when Tyrion jokes to Jamie about how he’d love to see the look on their father’s face if he knew they were willing to fight and die at Winterfell. There are no Houses at this point, just people coming together to fight for the living.

You also get many special moments for individual characters:

  • Brienne is officially knighted by Jamie
  • Arya has sex for the first time with Gendry
  • Arya and the Hound reunite after she left him for dead (which is just a funny scene)
  • Jon, and then Dany, learn about his true heritage
  • Theon returns after leaving Winterfell in shame and pledges to fight for them and protect Bran.
  • Sansa shines as the Lady of Winterfell and a defender of the north, despite Dany’s claim to the throne.
  • Brienne and Jamie share a tender moment when he promises to fight for her.
  • Podrick sings a song to pull the episode together (wonder if Ed Sheeran will cover that one too)
  • Missandei and Grey Worm pledge their love and a future with one another

Yes, the episode is filled with dialogue. No, there aren’t action scenes or daring quests for us to talk about. But the depth in what we do receive with the characters can’t be ignored.

Books and movies are known for this “calm before the storm” so writers can make the readers/watchers feel and care about the characters before the inevitable battle. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Harry talks with his deceased loved ones before his fight with Voldemort. It’s a slow, quiet moment where he has to face his fear and he knows he has his family to back him. Likewise, he talks with a ghostly Dumbledore to understand his purpose in the battle, and in the world, before the final fight at Hogwarts. In Lord of the Rings, we get moments with the characters preparing for battle and saying final goodbyes or offering encouragement. In the Hunger Game series, more than once Katniss gets quiet time with her family or Gale or Peeta before everything goes to hell. Think about Katniss and Peeta kissing in the cave before they threaten to both eat the poisonous berries. These scenes are what helps us connect with the characters and makes us care what happens to them. Game of Thrones has done this many times like when Rob and Talisa sweetly agree to name their unborn child after Eddard Stark just before the horrible Red Wedding scene.

So why such a negative reaction to GOT season eight? Could it be because fans had to wait over 500 days to see a brand new episode? Is it because we’ve just gotten so use to the blood, guts, and death that we’re not used to character development anymore? Who knows. I personally enjoyed the episodes because I know when the battle comes, and the characters fall, I’ll at least have had some closure in their relationships with each other. I’ll care what happens. And I’ll mourn deeply for them.

I do this in my own writing, not just for my readers, but for myself. I know who isn’t going to make it, and I want to make sure they have a chance to say what they need to say before they die. It’s closure for me as the writer as well. Here’s a character I’ve spent months writing about who’s no longer going to be with me. Of course I’d want to find a way to say goodbye, and I do that through the “calm.” In the same way, I want the chance to say goodbye to the characters I’ve watched for several years before they pass (and before the show ends).

You’ll get your battle next week, I’m sure. And I think, in the end, we’ll appreciate the two episodes we got with our characters before the series comes to a close.